Adolescent Chinese writers: Juggling writing demands and sociocultural influences

Year: 2000


Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This paper reports on an ongoing study of Chinese students' argumentative essays (written in English) with a focus on the sociocultural and sociolinguistic forces at play in their writing. This phase of the study involves analysis of 100 argumentative essays, written by Chinese students (in English) in the Henan Province of China. The essays were marked by an English teacher from Henan Province and by an Australian English teacher, using a pre-determined set of marking criteria. Results of our analyses -including a metalinguistic analysis of the scripts - indicate marked differences between the ways in which teachers from each country assess identical essays. Moreover, data indicate that in many instances, students' patriotism and lack of awareness of reader needs - as demonstrated in their use of language and claims - impedes their capacity to construct coherent, objective and effectively substantiated written arguments. These and related findings provide justification for a sociocultural consideration of the pedagogical and assessment issues related to the writing processes of second language learners.

While our focus is on the writing of Chinese high school students, there are several broader issues involved, such as those pertaining to teacher preparation and inservicing, development of culturally appropriate teaching resources - including textbooks, and facilitation of ongoing cross-cultural research. We believe these issues have relevance to Chinese educators as well as to those involved in teaching Chinese L2 learners in Western countries.